What Is The Meaning Of Chinese Jade Pendants?-Yu Pei

What Is The Meaning Of Chinese Jade Pendants?-Yu Pei

Jade, known as "Yu" in Chinese, holds a special and revered place in Chinese culture and history. For millennia, jade has been cherished for its beauty, durability, and spiritual significance. Among the various forms of jade jewelry, jade pendants, or "Yu Pei" in Chinese, stand out as one of the most meaningful and culturally significant accessories. In this article, we will delve into the profound meaning of Chinese jade pendants, exploring their symbolism, historical significance, and enduring popularity.

jade pendants in chinese history

The jade pendant has a long and storied history in China. Its origins can be traced back to the Neolithic period, and by the time of the Shang and Zhou dynasties, jade pendants had already become one of the main types of jewelry worn by people. During the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods, the use of jade pendants became widespread, and various crafting and carving techniques such as relief, openwork, and inlay were employed.


In the Qin and Han dynasties, the use of jade pendants became even more prevalent, with a wide variety of styles and types emerging. During this period, jade pendants were often used as gifts or rewards and even served as a form of currency. Additionally, they were commonly utilized in religious ceremonies and ritual practices.


In the Wei, Jin, and Northern and Southern Dynasties, the use of jade pendants became more intricate, and they started to be worn in conjunction with other types of jewelry. The styles and craftsmanship of jade pendants during this period also underwent significant changes, including the introduction of materials like gemstones and pearls for inlay work.


During the Tang and Song dynasties, the use of jade pendants became widespread and symbolized the wearer's social status and standing. The styles and craftsmanship of jade pendants during this era reached new heights, with the introduction of intricate carvings and complex designs.


In the Ming and Qing dynasties, the use of jade pendants reached its peak and became an indispensable part of people's daily lives. The styles and craftsmanship during this period became even more complex and refined, with the emergence of intricate patterns and carving techniques.


Throughout Chinese history, the jade pendant has evolved from a simple ornament to a symbol of status, beauty, and cultural significance. Its enduring popularity and artistic diversity have made it a cherished and timeless piece of jewelry, representing the rich heritage and craftsmanship of Chinese culture.


why chinese wear jade pendants?

There are many reasons why Chinese people wear jade pendants, not only out of love and reverence for jade but also as a way to respect and carry forward traditional Chinese culture.


Firstly, jade is regarded as a magical and precious material with mystical power and spirituality. In ancient times, people believed that wearing jade pendants could ward off evil, ensure safety, protect the wearer, and attract wealth. Thus, wearing jade pendants became a popular belief and cultural custom. People believed that wearing jade pendants could safeguard the well-being of themselves and their families, as well as bring good luck and happiness.


Secondly, jade pendants are also viewed as works of art with profound historical and cultural connotations. Each jade pendant has its unique historical background and cultural significance. Some are ancient ritual objects, some are ornaments of literati, and others are accessories of ancient garments. These jade pendants not only showcase the aesthetic taste of ancient people but also reflect their cultural traditions and historical heritage. Therefore, wearing jade pendants not only demonstrates individual aesthetics and tastes but also showcases respect for and continuation of traditional Chinese culture.


Furthermore, wearing jade pendants symbolizes social interaction and social status. In ancient China, jade pendants were commonly worn by nobles and scholars. Wearing jade pendants not only displayed one's social status and identity but also served as a social symbol to showcase one's social skills and standing. Additionally, jade pendants were also used as gifts and prizes, which could be presented to relatives, friends, or as personal rewards.



style chinese jade pendants

There are many types of jade pendants in China. Here are some common types:


Dragon-shaped Pendant: Dragon-shaped pendants appeared as early as the Shang and Zhou dynasties, though they were less complex in craftsmanship during that time. The heyday of dragon-shaped pendants was during the Warring States period. They often took the form of an "S," resembling a serpent's body, with elongated and exquisitely decorated features, sharp edges, and smooth carvings, vividly depicting the dragon's spirit.

Shield-shaped Pendant: Also known as "Chicken Heart Pendant" or "Heart-shaped Pendant." Shield-shaped pendants appeared as early as the Shang Dynasty and became popular during the Warring States and Han periods. These pendants are often intricately carved with delicate patterns such as dragon, phoenix, cloud, and chi (mythical creature). In the late Han Dynasty, the popularity of shield-shaped pendants declined, but they experienced a revival during the Ming and Qing periods when the retro trend emerged. However, the craftsmanship of these later shield-shaped pendants was not as exquisite as that of the Han Dynasty.

Dancer-shaped Pendant: Dancer-shaped pendants appeared during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States periods. They were inspired by the continuous development of palace songs and dances. At this time, dancer-shaped pendants featured both single and double dancers. Although the facial features were simplified, the long-sleeved garments presented graceful dance postures, radiating elegance. The Han Dynasty further perfected the design, depicting graceful female figures dancing in flowing dresses, resembling ethereal fairies. After the Eastern Han period, the number of dancer-shaped pendants gradually decreased and was later replaced by the flying figure motif.

Flying Figure Pendant: Jade flying figures emerged during the Tang Dynasty. They portrayed graceful women with uplifted heads, wearing long skirts, holding flowers and plants, dancing gracefully amidst auspicious clouds. During the Song Dynasty, the jade flying figures had delicate facial features, straight noses, and small mouths, with a dignified demeanor. Although jade flying figures existed during the Liao and Jin periods, they were not as exquisite as those from the Tang and Song periods, lacking refined craftsmanship and appearing slightly rigid.

Flower and Bird Pendant: Flower and bird pendants express a love for nature and passion for life. With depictions of flowers, birds, fish, and insects, they exude vitality and a sense of contentment. During the Ming and Qing periods, flower and bird pendants became more lively and included auspicious motifs, leaving a lasting impression.


In addition to the above types, there are also plaque-shaped pendants, hanging-shaped pendants, and si nan (Chinese square copper coin) pendants, among others. Each type of jade pendant has its unique historical background and cultural significance, making them an essential part of traditional Chinese culture.


meaning of chinese jade pendants

In ancient times, the significance of jade pendants extended beyond a mere aspiration for a beautiful life and blessings. They were also symbolic of social status and expressions of ritual norms. Different historical periods saw variations in the styles and meanings of jade pendants. Let's explore the significance and historical context of jade pendants during several periods:


Shang and Zhou Dynasties:

The Shang and Zhou Dynasties marked the initial development of jade artifacts. Though the craftsmanship was relatively simple, many symbolic jade items emerged, such as jade pendants, jade bi discs, and jade cong tubes. During the Shang Dynasty, jade pendants were often adorned with animal faces and dragon patterns, while those of the Zhou Dynasty featured bird motifs and phoenix patterns, signifying reverence for and prayers to the deities. Additionally, jade pendants of this era were symbols of power and status, reserved for nobles and scholars, thus reflecting the embodiment of ceremonial and ritual norms.


Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods:

The Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods represented the peak of jade development. At this time, jade craftsmanship had become highly refined, resulting in the creation of representative jade artifacts such as jade bi discs, jade guis, and jade huangs. Jade pendants were one of the most popular ornaments during this period, with intricate designs and exquisite carvings, symbolizing good fortune and prayers for safety. Furthermore, jade pendants in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods were often exchanged as gifts, symbolizing friendly relationships and diplomatic connections.


Han Dynasty:

The Han Dynasty witnessed the zenith of jade craftsmanship. Jade artifacts of this era were unparalleled in their intricacy and included historically significant pieces such as jade clothing ornaments, jade pillows, and jade seals. Dragon patterns, phoenix motifs, and fish patterns were prevalent on Han Dynasty jade pendants, signifying belief in deities and prayers. Additionally, these pendants served as symbols of social status, worn only by nobles and scholars, thereby representing the embodiment of ceremonial norms.


Tang Dynasty:

The Tang Dynasty represented a new stage in jade development. Craftsmanship had reached new heights, leading to the emergence of exotic jade items such as jade belts, jade cups, and jade hairpins. Jade pendants in the Tang Dynasty predominantly featured floral and bird patterns, representing a love for life and blessings. Moreover, Tang Dynasty jade pendants symbolized cultural exchange, incorporating elements from central China, the Western Regions, and the southern regions, creating a unique Tang-style of jade artifacts.


In each historical period, jade pendants held unique meanings, and they served not only as adornments but also as important reflections of the prevailing social norms, cultural exchanges, and beliefs of ancient Chinese civilization.






Chinese jade pendants, or "Yu Pei," hold profound meaning and cultural significance in Chinese tradition. As symbols of virtue, protection, and prosperity, these beautifully crafted pieces have been treasured for thousands of years. From ancient royalty to modern jewelry enthusiasts, jade pendants continue to captivate hearts with their timeless allure, carrying forward the rich legacy of Chinese culture and the enduring beauty of jade.

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